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It's not exactly two teams heading in different directions, but when Illinois hosts No. 9 Michigan State on Tuesday night, it will be a meeting of a pair of programs feeling a bit differently about how things have played out the past couple of weeks.

 

The Spartans (18-4, 9-2 Big Ten) remain tied atop the league standings with Michigan and Purdue, but they're in that spot -- instead of first place all alone -- because they've lost two straight, on the road at Purdue and then Saturday at home against Indiana in overtime.

 

It was the Indiana loss that truly had Michigan State reeling, considering the Hoosiers entered the game losers of eight straight and the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference. They ended their skid by hitting 50 percent of their triples and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds.

 

Michigan State will have to do so against an Illinois team that is mired near the bottom of the conference standings but is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel for second-year coach Brad Underwood.

 

The Fighting Illini (7-15, 3-8) have won two of their last three games, including a win over then-No. 13 Maryland at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 26.

 

Illinois will attempt to swarm the Spartans defensively. The Illini lead the Big Ten in turnovers forced while Michigan State is averaging more than 13 turnovers a game.

 

It's been an Achilles' heel all year for the Spartans, who had two of their worst turnover games early in the season in a five-point loss to then-No. 1 Kansas and an overtime loss at Louisville.

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